"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Thursday, 27 June 2013



I have decided to balance this post with an account of Confession by a Catholic; but pride of place belongs to Father Thomas Hopko's lecture.

   Perhaps one of the most important set of circumstances leading up to Vatican II was the presence in Paris of a significant number of Russian Orthodox theologians, refugees from Soviet Russia, at the same time that France had a significant number of Catholic theological giants.   Both groups were under a cloud, the Russians because they lived in the West and were, therefore, under the corrupting influence of Rome, and the French because they were suspected of "modernism", an all-embracing heresy that the Vatican could use against anyone it didn't like or felt uncomfortable with.   As time went on, the Russian theologians grew in stature in the Orthodox world, and Pope John XIII invited the French theologians to Vatican II where they were joined by other theologians like Dom Christopher Butler of Downside, Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Wojtyla from Cracow.   They were largely responsible for the main documents of the Council, and two of them went on to higher things.

This made their discovery of Orthodox Tradition as a different version of their own Tradition in their years of informal meetings with their Russian colleagues, especially in the annual Liturgical Week organised by the Institut Saint-Serge, very important for the internal life of the Catholic Church.    They discovered, , in the words of Father Georges Florovsky, that both Catholic and Orthodox theologians, however much they disagree on certain points of doctrine, are arguing from within the same Tradition. Of course, this makes the differences sharper and more painful; but it holds out the hope that our differences can be overcome.

I hope that, listening to Father Thomas Hopko on Confession, Catholics will find what he says surprising, because what he says comes out of an ecclesial experience different from our own;  enlightening, because he is looking at the sacrament from a different angle than ours; and helpful because you will have a fuller understanding of what it means to go to confession.   What is clear to me is that we are talking about the same sacrament, and what is demonstrated is that we have two different versions of the same Tradition. This is a great discovery that I want to share with you.   If Tradition is the fruit of the synergy between the Holy Spirit and the Church, fundamental agreement will eventually be reached.


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